By Arthur Christopher

It isn’t quite warm enough for the beach, you haven’t quite recovered from the crowds you had to fight past to get a wave last summer but after a long winter of Facebook poking and a bit of work, you need a break. Here are three out of the way towns that offer the sort of rural rejuvenation that will last you until Christmas.

Darling, West Coast

For most of the year, the town of Darling is the sort of place that moves along slowly, staging a play here and a gymkhana there. But in September and October it bursts to life. Flowers cover the hills surrounding the town, a music festival – Rocking The Daisies, which has risen in stature since its inaugural staging last year – rolls in and Darling is transformed. The chosen home of Pieter Dirk Uys (aka Evita Bezuidenhout), Darling stages the comic’s shows throughout the year, so if you miss the flowers and the music, there’s always a touch of transvestite comedy to keep visitors interested.

Clarens, Free State

Clarens is just the sort of town you wouldn't expect to find in the Free State. Instead of a facebrick suburbia surrounding a grey monument to the Voortrekkers, Clarens is an artist’s haven. There are several galleries in town and a handful of the country's better known artists either living in or often visiting it. Considering it's location in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains, close to the Golden Gate National Park, it’s not difficult to see why. We sent a scout there not long ago who reported that the artists do not bite and are in fact quite amiable, particularly if you buy some of their work. There’s horse riding, archery, the curious intrigue of ‘reptile shows’, hiking, the works. What’s more, it’s only four hours from Johannesburg.

Prince Albert, Western Cape

You’d be forgiven for wanting more than an annual olive festival and a burgeoning mohair industry as reasons to place a town on your holiday shortlist, but for too long has Prince Albert been sold short. Prince Albert the town is about the best place from which to see the Karoo. It sits at the foot of the Swartberg Mountains, there is a ‘prize-winning’ dairy, a tannery and – for those into such things – prehistoric reptile footprints. But it is Prince Albert’s proximity to absolute nothingness that is its strongest draw card.

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